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dearbaby:

Let’s talk about birth.

Life as a parent is all about decision making. It’s about asking yourself “What are the needs of my child and our family and how best can I fulfill them?”  There are decisions to make about how to feed your baby, where your baby will sleep, their physical care, their mental/emotional support… the list goes on and on but one of the very first decisions you will have to make for your child and your family is about your birth choices.

While I’m an advocate for low intervention, drug-free childbirths, I get that unmedicated births are not for everyone. My desire to continue to talk about childbirth on my blog is to ensure that other women are educated about their birthing choices. In the United States 1 in 3 women will deliver their baby via c-section. This is a 50% increase since 1996 (stats) FIFTY PERCENT in fifteen years?!? As a nation, we should be outraged by this! 

The rate hasn’t increased because women are less able to deliver their children vaginally, the rate has increased because doctors and hospital protocol is encouraging more and more birth interventions. Essentially, the minute you step foot in a hospital, the clock starts on how long you will be allowed to labor. For some hospitals, it’s 8 hours, for others it’s 16 hours or more. Throw in interventions like multiple vaginal exams that can introduce bacteria, pitocin to stimulate labor (but can also cause stress to the baby) and epidurals (which limit a mother’s ability to move around to progress labor and inhibit her body’s natural ability to push) and doctor’s own desires (and fears of malpractice) to perform quick & efficient cesarean sections and you start to understand why the rate has sky-rocketed in recent years.

There are those who have told me that my decision to have a waterbirth outside a hospital was dangerous. These are often the same people who share stories of hospitals “saving a baby” after a labor that included multiple intervention that spiraled into an emergency c-section. C-sections, when truly needed are one of the miracles of modern medicine - they are saving the lives of women and their baby’s every day - but do we really believe as a society that if c-sections were not available that ONE IN THREE women or babies would die in the birthing process? As a species, we’d have a hard time surviving with those kind of statistics.

I don’t want this post to get bogged down in debates of hospital vs. birthing center or home birth. Each woman should choose to deliver wherever she feels most comfortable. What I do want this post to convey is Education is everything. Don’t walk into your OB’s office and hand yourself over to them. I think OBGYN’s are fantastic - they are often the guardians of women’s health and there are some truly fantastic ones out there - but ultimately you are your biggest (and sometimes only) advocate.

I’ve had the highest rated OBGYN in San Francisco look me in the eye and tell me “We’ll see how it goes. Most women choose an epidural”  when I was adamant about having a natural birth. I’ve had a popular Raleigh based OBGYN tell me “I don’t want you or your baby to have a serious complication like hemorrhaging” because I informed him I would be declining unnecessary medical interventions.  Both of these doctors talk to first time moms all day, every day.  They used fear and doubt to try to manipulate my choices instead of building me up to believe that my body was made for this very thing. There is an absolute need for us to change the culture and thinking of so many in the medical profession about how birth is approached. It’s not a disease or illness that needs to be fixed. It is a natural bodily process and one that our bodies were designed to do. With that said, modern medicine has also saved the lives of countless women and children - I’m not saying that all medical interventions are bad. What I’m saying is that in many cases, interventions are unnecessary and interfere with a women’s natural ability to give birth, resulting in more invasive interventions.

There is also a lot of research that women who had a c-section with their first child, have a safer, easier experience with a vaginal birth for their second vs. another c-section (89%). (Read more here or here) but finding hospitals to do VBACs (Vaginal birth after a cesarean) can be a real challenge. Women who are able to birth vaginally are at less risk for complications due to a major abdominal surgery, have a much easier recovery, experience an easier early breastfeeding experience, and do not have to spend hours away from their child shortly after birth.  As a society, we should all desire to reduce these challenges for birthing women.

So as I step down off my soapbox - I want to leave you with this advice:

  • Read everything you can about birth.
  • Educate yourself on what your body will do during labor.
  • Understand the benefits and consequences of every intervention you choose as part of your labor process.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or change providers if you do not like the answer (I switched from an OB to a Midwife practice at 30 weeks with Everly!)
  • Give yourself and your partner alone time to discuss privately every unexpected choice you may have to make during your labor.
  • Watch videos of women laboring in different ways on youtube so that you will be better prepared for what to expect.
  • Take a birthing class or a labor management techinique (hypnobabies, Bradley Method, Lamaze, etc)
  • Communicate your labor desires with everyone who will be providing you with care as early as possible (at your provider’s offices, in the hospital, etc)
  • Hire a doula - women who utilized a doula (whether for a natural birth or a medicated one) have a 50% lesser chance of getting a c-section
  • Exercise  and eat well throughout your pregnancy & take advantage of holistic options like yoga, massage, chiropractic care, and acupuncture to prepare your body for the act of giving birth.
  • Visualize your ideal birth often
  • Be upfront and open about your birthing fears - identifying them and acknowledging them is important
  • Utilize as many labor aids as you can - birthing pools, massage, aromatherapy, showers, belly lift holds, birth balls, birth stools, etc.
  • Surround yourself with people who will make you feel safe and support your desires during your labor - partner, family, doula, Midwife or OB.

There are no guarantees in birth. You can’t predict the outcome - and sometimes the outcome is far from what you anticipated. It’s perfectly normal and expected for you to feel a sense of mourning or disappointment if your birth doesn’t go as planned. Ultimately, you were still the pinnacle of an amazing and miraculous venture - the creation and birth of a child.

The most important things you can do is to give yourself as many tools and as much support and education as possible regarding the process of birthing.  If you do that, you will also give yourself the best possibility of the birthing experience you want.  If we’re going to lower the c-section rate in this country, creating informed and prepared mothers is the first step.

Resources for expecting mothers:

Childbirth.com Labor and Birthing Resources

Ina May Gaskins Guide to Childbirth

Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth & Modern Maternity Care

Hypnobabies.com

Birth Videos with an Epidural

Find a Doula

Natural Birth Videos

Waterbirth International

American Pregnancy - Labor & Birthing Resources

Love,

M

i just think all this stuff is really interesting and really important to know

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